Turner schools: part 3, Morehall and Martello primary schools.
Morehall Primary (Cheriton)
Morehall was taken over by Turner Schools from the failed Lilac Sky Academy Trust in January 2017.
One year on, pupil numbers have slumped from being full in 2017 with 30 places on offer, to having just 11 families choosing one of the school’s 60 places for this September, the second lowest take up rate in the county, before another 9 Local Authority Allocated children were added in. Oddly, the school had increased its Planned Admission Number from 30 in previous years, presumably in anticipation of a growth in popularity because of its re-branding, as it had been full or nearly full in each of the previous seven years.
A parent has said they “chose to avoid Morehall School” for their son. They go onto say of the school, “you have a great PR job to do, to sell the product to parents. Changes may indeed have been made, but they are not yet evident…. The website is a joke.”.
Dr Hirsch is quoted here as defining the Trust’s purpose as: ‘To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world’. The raising Aspirations section includes: ‘University visits in Kent and beyond’ – nothing like early planning!”
Martello Primary (Folkestone)
This is a new school opened in 2015 under the sponsorship of the failed Lilac Sky Academy Trust, but passed to Turner Schools in January 2017 when Lilac Sky was closed down.
The school website opens the door to a very high powered, if controversial, series of video clips on educational theory (the link does not work on the Morehall site) which may not be the first thought to attract potential families, many of whom are described by Ofsted as: ‘A higher-than-average proportion of pupils leave and join the school at various times during the school year. Since September, over 20 pupils have joined the school. A higher-than-average proportion of children are from minority ethnic groups and speak English as an additional language. A much-larger-than-average proportion of pupils are supported by pupil premium funding’. On the website I tried: ‘Dr. Jo Saxton asked Dr. E.D. Hirsch (an American theoretical educationist): “How young can you start with a knowledge based curriculum? The link diverted me to a commercial website selling resources to schools, but also filled with educational theories. Choose the right link to take you to a series of video clips, one of which is the required one, which seeks to justify the knowledge based curriculum of Martello Primary.
‘As a starting point children are taught to be aware of each subject they learn and its unique identity. Pupil versions of subject descriptions, or rationales, can be found around the school building to help children scaffold their learning’. It is unclear to me how this approach is intended to relate to the parent body of this school.
An ex Happy Teacher is quoted just this weekend past, “The school was out of control under poor leadership when I left and I understand is no better.” they go onto say “You are quite correct about Sprecial Educational Needs(SEN). It was wholly inadequate to cover needs and the policy and promises of the SEN policy are, as you describe it, fantasy!”
The school has an Autistic Unit, it has had problems with Special Education Needs, as is made clear by the ex happy teacher above, including staff turnover, seemingly at odds with the ‘knowledge based curriculum’ that, according to Dr Hirsch, should be offered to all children and if they cannot absorb it, then they won’t come to harm. Surely Dr Hirsch, one size does not fit all?
Moving on, the SEN practice at Martello
‘ has had problems with Special Education Needs, including staff turnover.‘
An unexpected OFSTED visit confirmed the high staff turnover. Surely parents are right to raise legitimate concerns as their children with special educational needs need stability, not changing faces. Having said that there is an enormous SEN Policy, full of aspiration and offering apparently unlimited resources, but which appears to clash with the reality encountered by some families. However, there is also plenty of expensive external consultancy to steer the school. Surely the money would be better spent within the school?
What is clear is that the school is not popular with parents, with just 18 families choosing to apply to the school’s 30 places, with another four Local Authority Allocations, second lowest take up in Folkestone.
An exceptional Ofsted Inspection took place in December, triggered by concerns raised from an informal visit from an HMI. In the end the outcome was broadly satisfactory, with staff still settling in to the change of regime, although Ofsted confirms the large turnover of staff, for just 147 pupils. All the children need & deserve continuity, is that too much to ask from Turner Schools? We hope not.
(parts of this blog post first appeared on the Kent Advice website, we are grateful for their kind permission to reproduce it here.)
The Shepwayvox Team – Dissent is NOT a Crime.
If readers would like to know more about Turner schools they should visit the website of Kent Independent Education Advice and they will be even more concerned (link below).